Saturday, July 11, 2015

An American blogger in Grenoble (and Frankfurt)

Part one and two of the June 2014 trip to France.

Well, now that it's been more than a year, I suppose I ought to talk about our trip to Grenoble. Our friend Aaron was living in Grenoble at the time as a facet of his PhD program. (So. Lucky.) He purchased train tickets for us, with the warning that there had been a lot of strikes of late. As luck would have it, our train was canceled due to strike as well, but Aaron told us to simply get on the next train about twenty minutes later. Exchanging tickets was a huge hassle, but even that didn't prepare us for worse yet to come.

The Horrible Train Adventure
We didn't understand that people who had originally booked the second train had reserved seats, so we just chose the first seats we saw. The first embarrassing part happened when I asked the gentleman across the aisle, "Est-ce que vous travaillez à Grenoble?" I meant to confirm that we were on the right train by asking him if he was traveling to Grenoble also, but it had been such a long time since I'd taken any French classes that I actually asked him if he worked in Grenoble (the correct verb would have been voyager). He sounded confused and I realized my error - but not before he switched to impeccable English. *face palm*

Just as he was trying to help us, another gentleman stepped up and asked us to get out of his seats. We bounced from seat to seat for a while, fruitlessly trying to find a spot that wasn't already claimed. At one point, we asked an attendant where we were supposed to sit, and the entire train car chuckled softly at us, filling me with impotent rage. We noticed other hapless patrons of the idiotic French rail system sitting on stairs and on the floor, so we squished ourselves into an open luggage area, next to our suitcases, and prepared ourselves for a miserable few hours.

Eventually, the train got on its way and I spotted an unclaimed seat. I forced Tyler to take it, since he's a leggy fellow and much more uncomfortable tucking himself into a baggage compartment than I am. Luckily, a nice gentleman who saw us split up offered us his seat and the empty one next to it, and relocated himself. (My theory is that I was a cute girl and he felt guilty making me sit on the floor. I'm usually not a fan of benevolent sexism, but this time I fairly leapt at the chance.) Tyler felt embarrassed the whole way to Grenoble afterward, but I was satisfied.

Grenoble was worth the only horrible experience I've ever had with a train. Our apartment was huge and quaint, the town beautiful and framed with imposing mountains. Few people in Grenoble seemed to speak English, but they were all really friendly. Also, Aaron was there, so I could finally relax and let someone else drive the Frenchmobile at restaurants and such, for the most part.

We had a great time in Grenoble and ended up wishing we had spent the majority of our trip there instead of Paris. We tried chartreuse and a variety of walnut-flavored things (they're big on walnuts there), including an amazing ice cream.

Aaron took us on a little side trip to Annecy to visit our friend Denis and his fiancee, who met us at the train station with three bikes despite being on roller blades. They took us back to Denis's parents' home, where we ate ice cream and bread, and then to a lake. The lake was fun until I got out and found a teeny tiny LEECH attached to the webbing between my last two toes. I nearly threw up from terror, because I'm a big baby but also because leeches are fully disgusting. Happily, the leech was no match for my freak-out and fell off of its own accord within a couple of minutes. Its memory lives on, though: Aaron and Denis will tease me about it forever.

On our last night with Aaron, Tyler and I joined him for a free classical concert in an outdoor park. It was a beautiful and relaxing way to wind things down.

The next day we flew to Frankfurt, Germany, for a 23 hour layover. We ended up so glad that we'd decided to visit! We tried schnitzel and spaetzle at Klosterhof; explored the beautiful city center; visited the old Jewish cemetery adjacent to the Jewish Museum; and drank tons of Apfelwein, a delicious hard cider and a Frankfurt specialty.

Thumbing his nose at us!

These gents weren't impressed.

I had never seen the word "vulva" graffiti'd anywhere.


I was fascinated by these weird geese.

The names of those who died in the Holocaust. The wall is really long..

The old Jewish cemetery.

Anne Frank.

From what we could tell of the many celebrations going on around Frankfurt, few people were boycotting.

And that's it! At last.

Friday, June 26, 2015


I'm so glad to be alive today, the day of this historic and amazing ruling by SCOTUS: same sex marriage is now legal throughout the United States! As an ally, the sister of a queer woman, a friend to many gay men, lesbian women, and others along the spectrum, and a bisexual-identified woman myself, I could not be happier. I even cried today, and I almost never cry when I'm happy. There is much yet to do - not just for LGBTQIA rights, but for all oppressed people - but for now, I'm just going to revel in it. This Pride is going to be CRAZY.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Pole dancing

Originally written for Pole Fitness Seattle.

Almost four years ago, I had just come out of a demoralizing relationship and break-up. (He was really, REALLY pretty, so I chose to overlook the fact that he was a self-centered jerk until he abruptly moved back to Canada.) In the interest of distracting myself with something new and fun, I signed up for an introductory pole dancing course. It turned out to be the perfect choice. 

I was able to lose myself in the slow sensuality of the warm-ups, the technical challenge of pole spins and transitions, and the pleasure and giddiness of performing for and with my fellow students. I don't have a gymnastic or dance background, so everything I learned forced my body to move in totally new ways. Although yoga and meditation have never come easily to me, dragging my fingertips across the floor or running them over my hips taught me a new and delicious way to practice mindfulness, to connect with myself and my surroundings, to slow my heart rate and to quiet my mind. I felt stronger, more confident, and sexier than ever before.

Unfortunately, I got laid off from my beloved job at Planned Parenthood at the end of 2011, and I took a financially-motivated break from pole that lasted nearly three years. Last October, I decided that I had fantasized about returning to pole too much to put it off any longer, so I enrolled in another introductory course, fearing that I had forgotten everything. However, I was delighted to find that my body still knew what to do. Maybe when you really love something, your muscle memory lasts longer.

People are always saying that when you find the right kind of fitness for you, it's no longer a chore. I had never found that thing, until I found pole dancing. It's the thing that gets me moving, the thing I look forward to, the thing that I miss when I can't make it to class. The community is so encouraging, and I love all the different kinds of classes I can take. Even though it takes me longer to learn than some, and it will take a while to build the strength and skill that I need to dance the way I want, I'm rarely discouraged because pole makes me happy. I may never be the best, but that's not what it's about for me. It's enough just to dance.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How I accidentally ended up at the Turkish equivalent of bachelorette party

Here was the information I found posted on a public Facebook events page:

Ladies, up for a henna tattoo? read the comment attached.

"Oh cool," I thought. "I don't know much about Turkish culture and I've never tried henna. It sounds fun and casual. Why not?" I went stag, as is so often my custom, figuring that I would be one of many strangers mingling and enjoying a lovely ritual together.

The Awkward started as soon as I arrived. I tried to enter through the wrong door, then realized everyone inside (who I could see) was wearing headscarves. I felt strangely naked and wondered whether I should leave; I didn't want to offend anyone with my ignorance and disrespect. To my relief, several other young women were also bareheaded. I summoned my most social, courageous self and found an open seat at a table.

It quickly became apparent that not only was this not a typical community event, I was literally the only person there who didn't know anyone else - and who didn't know that there was an actual bride for whom the party was thrown. As I introduced myself to the women who visited my table, they asked me who I knew, and I was forced to admit that I was apparently the one weird stranger who had found the event through Facebook. They welcomed me graciously, but with puzzled expressions.

I wondered whether I should go, but everyone seemed genuinely friendly and there was the promise of an mouthwatering buffet of Turkish food... so I decided to lean into it. I made a couple of friends, ate a ton of fantastic food, and danced with a bunch of beautiful, stylish Turkish women. I felt like I was in a SIFF film.

Eventually feeling like the odd man out overwhelmed my bravery, so I left before the henna - the only part of the event that had actually been advertised. But at least I had an adventure!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Stitch Fix #12

See Stitch Fix #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11
Would you like to try Stitch Fix? Sure you would! (Thank you for the Fix credit!)
Check out my style inspiration board.

Every time I think I've given up on Stitch Fix, I end up crawling back to them. I know why: I love the surprise. I love the questionnaire (even though I would prefer more questions to be on a continuum rather than drop-down, single answer only). I love reading other people's reviews and I love writing my own. But I don't feel loved by Stitch Fix and since I'm not a teenager anymore, I try not to love people who don't love me back. But! Here we are again, so let's get on with it.

Here's the cheery note that came in my box (entirely [sic]):

Hi Inness! Happy Fix day! We are currently out of the Kut From the Kloth jeans in red, but will keep an eye out for you, we can also keep an eye out for body con dresses as well [fun fact: I asked for jeans I'd seen in other recent bloggers' boxes; a pullover sweater; more tops; and a body con dress. I got one top and nothing else even close to what I'd requested; so much for that!]. I started you off with the Market and Spruce Wrap dress, this will look great on your figure and the pattern is fun! Pair it with the Skies are Blue Faux Leather Jacket for an added pop of edginess..perfect for a date night! For more casual occasions the Mavi Skinny jeans are super comfortable, a great wardrobe staple for everyday wear! Have fun trying these on! xo, Jessica

1. Market & Spruce "Zelda" ikat print wrap dress, $78

Wrap dresses are good in theory, but they annoy me in practice because you have to wear a slip or camisole + slip underneath. If you don't, it looks pretty sexy but you really have to worry about any passing breeze. This one passed muster because I liked the print, it was a fit and flare style so it flattered my body, and Tyler said I should keep it - he never cares about clothes. It was the only thing in my box that I liked, but I balked at the price. I feel like I could find an equally pretty, flimsy dress at TJ Maxx or Marshall's or whatever.

Verdict: kept.

2. Mavi "Yasmin" skinny jean, $98

I was intrigued by these pants when I took them out of the box. They're stretchy, like maternity pants or jeggings, but thicker and seemingly higher quality. They're high waist and very 1950s, which I like. The lack of pockets worried me, but they were surprisingly flattering. Although I wouldn't necessarily say they did anything special for my butt (that pose looks good in any pant), they also didn't actively work against it. Unfortunately the price deterred me and I wanted them to be even HIGHER waisted. I am particular about my pant rises.

Verdict: returned.

3. Pixley "Tracy" dot print cross back knit top, $58

Can you believe this shirt is $58? Hahahahahaha, AS IF. It's just a regular ol' knit shirt, a notch above Target quality but not by much, and bound to pill within a wash or two. The elastic cuffs annoy me and feel childish along with the cutesy polka dots, whereas the cut reminds me of a maternity top. Although I can pooch my stomach out very convincingly, I am in fact NOT pregnant.

Verdict: returned.

4. Skies are Blue "Terese" quilted faux leather jacket, $88

I appreciated this edgy addition to my box, but I already have a faux leather jacket that I love, plus the sleeves were too long and the fit too boxy and unflattering.

Verdict: returned.

5. Bancroft "Leighton" metal bauble necklace, $34

This necklace was fine but just nothing special in my estimation. I like statement necklaces, and gold jewelry, and I liked that the length was adjustable, but I couldn't imagine myself reaching for this necklace to complement any of my outfits.

Verdict: returned.

So there you have it! Better than returning everything, but I'd like to be REALLY enthused about my next box, if there will be a next box.. There probably will be. I just can't seem to help myself.

Friday, January 23, 2015

An American blogger in Paris, part two

See part one!

Honestly, it's been so long that I'm probably mixing up some of the order of what all we did. And I haven't even talked about our first Parisian dinner! How did I forget that?

Tyler and I visited Au Pied du Sacré Coeur twice during our visit because it was so nice. We wandered into this little restaurant around 9 our first night, hungry and a little out of our element. We'd already had some trouble with credit cards and the Metro and we just wanted something nice to eat, served by nice people. Au Pied far exceeded our expectations - the servers were so kind and patient with us; I know a little French but Tyler knows none, and they didn't seem the least bit exasperated by that. The prices were reasonable, and the plates were huge and filled with all kinds of tasty things. I had the duck and it was mouthwateringly good. The wine was also splendid and inexpensive. If you're ever near Montmartre and you want to have a good meal served by friendly people, this is the place.

Anyway, one of the days it rained, and rained, and RAINED. It wasn't Seattle rain; it was hard, soak-you-to-the-bone-in-minutes rain. We occasionally took shelter in cafes, but we couldn't eat the whole day, so we mostly just accepted our soggy fates.

Left: Even the statues were miserable. Right: Tyler and I visited a restaurant specializing in buckwheat crepes and hard cider.

French nerds DO exist!

The celebrated Pierre Hermé pâtisserie. (Tyler's shirt is different because we had to go home and change out of our sopping wet clothes.)
Eventually we gave up and went home to watch "The Talented Mr. Ripley" with French subtitles. The next day was much better, and we explored the Canal St-Martin and Belleville neighborhoods.

If you've seen "Amelie," I believe this is where she frees her goldfish as a child.

We thought this was funny because it was a sugar cube. Get it? Sugar Daddy. (This was the only cafe where the waitress lived up to the rude Parisian stereotype.)

A view walking up to the Parc de Belleville. 

View from the Parc de Belleville.

Then we took our Pierre Hermé macarons to Père Lachaise Cemetery to eat atop a tombstone, a tradition Taite and I began on our visit in 2011. The contrast of death with a colorful (and delicious) celebration of life is one that tickles me.

As we explored, we took the opportunity to tease the residents. "Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; for those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow will frolic through graveyards.."

I tried to copy this guy's casually cool reclining pose and failed miserably. 
Got your nose! But I gave it back just in case, so he wouldn't curse me.
They seemed displeased by our pesky insouciance.

We stayed so long that we missed the optimal time to visit the Catacombs; by the time we got there, the line was terribly long. So we gave up on that and just walked around instead.

"I don't want to be your friend on Facebook."

The beautiful Place des Vosges

We took a quick stroll over to Ile de la Cité to visit Notre-Dame (just the outside) and eat ice cream.
On our last day in Paris, we collected an assortment of treasures for family members and fancy vacuum-packed cheeses. On our last night in Paris, we watched the sun set behind the Eiffel Tower and snuggled on the grass as the lights twinkled.

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